• Investor sees value in Stormers

    New York-based lawyer Marco Masotti has explained the reasoning behind his interest in buying a controlling stake in WP Rugby (Pty) Ltd. CRAIG LEWIS reports.

    Masotti, who grew up in Amanzimtoti south of Durban, is a partner at the New York-based law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, and is recognised as one of the country’s leading lawyers in the private equity and hedge fund fields.

    He is now primarily leading an expression of interest to invest about $6 million (almost R100m) in WP Rugby – $4m in the Stormers and $2m in the union.

    READ: US consortium eyes WP investment

    In an exclusive interview with SARugbymag.co.za on Tuesday, Masotti said discussions were still at an early stage, but earlier in July he had requested a 45-day exclusivity agreement to enter into talks with WPRFU. A key element of his offer revolves around a desire to acquire a controlling majority share.

    As a passionate rugby supporter, Masotti said he was extremely motivated to at least give this proposition a ‘try’.

    ‘I’m a Sharks fan, so if the Stormers and Sharks played each other, I’d have to dig a big hole and stick my head in it,’ he laughed. ‘I love rugby and it connects me to South Africa. I was in Yokohama Stadium watching the World Cup final last year, and I was also in Paris in 2007 when the Boks won.

    ‘I’m at the age of my life where I want to re-engage and reconnect with South Africa. With everything that’s happening with rugby, and due to the pandemic, it’s like a snow globe that has been shaken, and it will settle in a certain way. There is a lot of desperation and unease around the sport, but there is also an opportunity to reassess and rethink things. And to get involved.’

    Masotti also explained how the possibility of this ‘private equity’ investment opportunity had arisen, while highlighting why the Stormers were an attractive franchise to consider investing in.

    ‘I have a friend who came to New York from time to time, a very good South African businessman – Andre van der Veen who is on the board of the Stormers. He chatted to me about what he was doing at the Stormers.

    ‘For one, if you look at the type of players they have as part of their franchise, the [Siya] Kolisis of the world, who is becoming an iconic figure in the world, and the likes of Pieter-Steph [du Toit].

    ‘Then there’s the beautiful city of Cape Town, and the rabid, wonderful fans down there who seem to be filling the stadiums a bit more than in other regions. It just seemed the right type of brand to get involved in. Of course, it comes with a lot of complications, given the nature of the union ownership, and the fact they are moving to a new stadium. A lot of people might see that as a negative, but I see it as a positive.

    ‘It’s about re-engaging, getting involved in rugby, and understanding the power of sport and how it has the power to change a city and community.

    ‘It seemed like I should at least try.’

    Photo: Shaun Roy/Gallo Images

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    Craig Lewis